TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - In the first road trip of the season for Auburn, the Tigers kicked off the Seminole Invitational with a 3-1 (25-22, 17-25, 25-20, 25-21) victory over SMU to remain undefeated at 4-0.
It didn't take long for sophomore outside hitter Madison Scheer to get in a groove early. The Eureka, Missouri native grabbed three kills early in the first set to get her team the lead.
Senior setter Jackie Barrett spread the wealth early and often, leading the Orange and Blue to a monstrous .424 hitting percentage in the opening frame. Barrett, along with Kendal Kemp sealed the first set with a thunderous block and Auburn was off and running.
SMU returned serve in the second set, though. Literally.
A couple of deep serving runs put the Tigers in a hole. One which they almost climbed out of. Bella Bell dialed up a pair of kills and two of her three total blocks in the second stanza. Scheer and Anderson each found success on the outside as well but it wasn't quite enough as the Mustangs leveled the match at one set apiece.
Scheer, however, was not finished with SMU.
It did not matter where Scheer was on the court, kills just seemed to follow. She'd add four more to her total. Scheer finished with a match-high 18 kills on a blistering .324 hitting percentage.
Auburn's serve-receive was the deciding factor in the third set, though. Barrett and Fallan Lanham combined for two aces and sturdy passing from the back row that included Lanham, Zoe Slaughter and Sarah Morton allowed the offense to hit a higher gear. Another set above .300 hitting pushed the Tigers into the lead 2-1.
Lead in hand, Auburn was not about to let it go. SMU battled tough throughout the fourth set but when it came time for the Tigers to hit kick it into overdrive, Crouch's crew delivered.
Bell picked up four of her 10 kills in the fourth and final frame. Morton and the Auburn defense flexed their muscles as well. Morton piled up 17 digs, while Barrett secured 14 to post a double-double (36 assists, 14 digs).
The Tigers simply refused to let the ball land on their side of the net late in the fourth. Fittingly, a scrappy rally that ended in a Jackie Barrett kill capped off Auburn's fourth win of the season to kick off the 2023 campaign.
"It was a tough win. This was by far the best serving team we played. We knew that from the stats, we knew that from the video and it was clear when we started playing they had some people who could not only hit some deep, flat, fast serves but they could vary their speed as well. But I liked how we responded to their serving and we passed well enough to get through it.
"It's great that we've got left sides and pins that can still get a kill when we pass off the net. Madison [Scheer], Akasha [Anderson], Bella [Bell] and Bel Zimmerman can all hit high balls and that saves us in a lot of cases.
"That's a good team. They're going to win a lot of matches this year. It's good to play teams like SMU during the second week of the season to where we are. Definitely a lot of room for improvement, blocking in particular. When we needed to make plays to put the match away in the fourth set, that happened. Kendal [Kemp] got a big block, Sarah [Morton] was digging really well and we just turned a lot of plays at the end there and you have to do that to put teams away."
- Auburn begins the season 4-0 for the third straight season under head coach Brent Crouch
- The Tiger's win over SMU is the third victory against the Mustangs in program history and first since 2012
- Auburn has hit north of .300 for the fourth consecutive match, extending the record for the Tigers under Crouch
- Maddie Scheer collected a season-high 18 kills
- Akasha Anderson (12 kills) has had at least 10 kills in every match this season
- Jackie Barrett posted the team's first double-double of 2023 (36 assists, 14 digs)
- Kyla Swanson's 10 kills match her career-high and set a new high in an Auburn uniform
- Bella Bell recorded 10 kills. She's had at least 10 kills in three of the four matches she's played as a Tiger
Auburn remains in the sunshine state for one more day when the Tigers take on host Florida State on Sunday, Sept. 3 at Noon CT. The match will be streamed live on the ACC Network Plus.